WALLA WALLA — West Nile virus is closer to the city of Walla Walla, as the crow flies.
Or, to be more accurate, a red-tailed hawk.
The hawk, discovered dead near Burbank, is the first identification of West Nile virus in a bird in Walla Walla County, said Harvey Crowder, administrator for Walla Walla County Public Health Department.
Officials with the state Department of Health reported the positive bird to his office today, he said. "It’s not surprising to find a positive bird here in Walla Walla County. There have been positive mosquitoes, birds, horses — and potentially people� — in Benton and Umatilla counties. It was only a matter of time before we found the virus here."
West Nile is primarily a disease of birds; crows, ravens, jays, magpies and raptors are especially susceptible. The disease is transmitted between birds by mosquitoes. Mosquitoes become infected by feeding on an infected bird and can pass the virus to humans, horses or other hosts when they feed, Crowder said.
Most people who become infected do not become ill, but some may develop mild flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, body aches, and occasionally swollen lymph glands or a rash.
In rare cases the virus may cause a severe inflammation of the brain and people with severe or unusual headaches should seek medical care as soon as possible.
County residents are encouraged to continue submitting dead birds for testing so officials can track the spread of West Nile in Walla Walla County, as well as take precautions to protect themselves against mosquito bites.
For more information go to www.co.walla-walla.wa.us/departments/phd/index.shtml.
Sheila Hagar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8322. Check out her blog at blogs.ublabs.org/fromthestorageroom.